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Docking, cropping and other acts of barbarism

According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standards, a Doberman pinscher should have a docked tail and “cropped and erect” ears — an appearance (above right) of “alertness,” albeit one achieved through surgery, rubber bands, tape and splints.

The altered appearance of the Doberman is one we’ve seen so often that we’ve come to accept it as normal, even though an unalderated Doberman (above left) has floppy ears and a whip-like tail.

Why do we do it — not just to the Doberman, but about 50 other breeds that are still commonly docked and cropped?

Mainly because of the aforementioned standards, based on traditions — barbaric, silly traditions, but traditions all the same.

Docking Dobermans goes all the way back to the man who created them, Louis Dobermann, who mixed a handful of breeds in hopes of coming up with a medium-sized guard dog. Being guards, they needed to look alert. Hence, the tail docking and ear cropping.

With breed standards under fire — primarily those that have led to inbreeding and genetic health defects among some breeds — the practice of docking tails and cropping ears should be re-examined, too 

The American Veterinary Medical Association, which had long recommended against docking and cropping for cosmetic purposes, came down harder on the practice in a new policy adopted last year, calling for them both to removed from breed standards.

The AKC, in response to the AVMA policy change, said that “mislabeling these procedures as ‘cosmetic’ is a severe mischaracterization that connotes a lack of respect and knowledge of history and the function of purebred dogs … These breed characteristics are procedures performed to insure the safety of dogs that on a daily basis perform heroic roles with Homeland Security, serve in the U.S. Military and at Police Departments protecting tens of thousands of communities throughout our nation as well as competing in the field.”

That high and mighty stance came close to painting those who might oppose docking and cropping as unpatriotic. I’m pretty sure letting dogs keep their tails is not going to compromise national security, or lead to more crime.

AKC policy remains the same: “… ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health.”

The AVMA says it received approximately 250 letters after the policy change –a substantial portion of which were supportive.

The AVMA is by no means the only organization opposed to performing these procedures. Virtually all animal welfare groups are against them, and cosmetic ear cropping and tail docking of dogs is banned in Australia and much of Europe. Both the American Animal Hospital Association and Canadian VMA have had long-standing policies against the surgeries.

Most recently, the representative body for veterinary surgeons in Ireland, has called for the introduction of legislation banning the practice of “tail docking” of puppies.

It has said there are reports puppies and breeding bitches are being brought to Ireland from Britain – where it has been illegal since 2007 — so docking can take place.


Comment from Anne-n-Spencer
Time April 2, 2009 at 9:55 am

I remember when I was about seven, they did that to our Boxer puppy, who was quite small. He had arrived at the age of six weeks with tail already docked. I have a somewhat confused memory of a lot of bandages and wire and a miserable little pup. It was just “done” and expected in those days.

Comment from ADA
Time April 2, 2009 at 5:14 pm

‘That high and mighty stance came close to painting those who might oppose docking and cropping as unpatriotic..’

Most of the dog breeds that are docked did not originate in the USA so docking does not relate to being “patriotic”. If the breed’s country of origin no longer docks then it behooves the AKC to follow suit.

Comment from baltimoregal
Time April 7, 2009 at 11:11 am

I find nothing more offensive than cropped ears on a dog. They give a dog such a wealth of expressiveness and are so sensitive. How anyone does not think this is barbaric is beyond me.

I understand that sometimes due to breeding the tails of some dogs are weak and need to be cropped but for the most part I think it is also cruel and wrong.

Comment from BaltimoreDobies
Time June 17, 2009 at 10:55 pm

I am a crop person. Unless it was a rescue, which my 3 dobies are, I wouldn’t have one any other way. As far as these procedures being inhumane, spaying/neutering are far more invasive and have the potential for far more discomfort and complications than ear cropping. Do NOT interpret that statement as me saying spay/neuter procedures shouldn’t be done. Absolutely positively every dog not to the standard and being put to the test in the show/performance ring should be altered (and some even if they have championed out). Circumcision is a cosmetic procedure in infants; often done without anesthetic, and the baby has no memory of it, and it is a decision left in the hands of the parents. If I, as a loving, doting owner and member of the veterinary profession, choose to have my companion cropped or docked by a licenced veterinarian, under anestheic, with pain meds and antibiotics afterwards, it is my decision. Alternately, I believe there should be strong punishments for those who choose to do this procedure without a licence. Consider the inverse of this situation. How would you feel if legislation was passed saying every dog of certain breed lineage had to be cropped or docked? Surely you would be up in arms about your rights as an owner to make those kinds of decisions yourself? Or, what if you had a baby boy and your doctor told you there was a law passed saying you MUST/MUST NOT circumcise? There are many, many more horrific and tragic things happening to dogs out there that deserve legislature and strong punishments than a simple surgery that is often done while under for spay/neuter.